The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Professional Associations » ncsm-members

Notice: We are no longer accepting new posts, but the forums will continue to be readable.

Topic: [ncsm-members] What Do Teachers Want?
Replies: 0  

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List  
Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] What Do Teachers Want?
Posted: Apr 19, 2012 2:19 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply
att1.html (10.2 K)

From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record /
Bridging Differences], Tuesday, April 10, 2012. See
-- Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch have found themselves at odds on
policy over the years, but they share a passion for improving
schools. Bridging Differences offer their insights on what matters
most in education.

What Do Teachers Want?

By Diane Ravitch

Dear Deborah,

We heard a lot last month about the MetLife Survey of the American
Teacher. It showed that teachers across the nation are demoralized
and that their job satisfaction has dropped precipitously since 2009.
The proportion thinking of leaving teaching has gone from 17 percent
to 29 percent, a 70 percent increase in only two years. If this is
accurate, it would mean the exit of one million teachers. I hope it
is not true.

What has happened in the past two years? Let's see: Race to the Top
promoted the idea that teachers should be evaluated by the test
scores of their students; "Waiting for 'Superman'" portrayed teachers
as the singular cause of low student test scores; many states,
including Wisconsin, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio
have passed anti-teacher legislation, reducing or eliminating
teachers' rights to due process and their right to bargain
collectively; the Obama administration insists that schools can be
"turned around" by firing some or all of the staff. These events have
combined to produce a rising tide of public hostility to educators,
as well as the unfounded beliefs that schools alone can end poverty
and can produce 100 percent proficiency and 100 percent graduation
rates if only "failing schools" are closed, "bad" educators are
dismissed, and "effective" teachers get bonuses.

Is it any wonder that teachers and principals are demoralized?

Another survey, released about the same time, has not gotten the
attention it deserves. This one conducted by Scholastic and the Bill
& Melinda Gates Foundation is called Primary Sources: 2012. It
contains valuable information about what teachers think.

Among other things, the survey asked teachers what they believe will
have the greatest impact on improving academic achievement.

This is what teachers said were the most important factors:

1. Family involvement and support (84 percent said it would have a
"very strong impact");
2. High expectations for all students (71 percent said it would have
a "very strong impact");
3. Fewer students in each class (62 percent said it would have a
"very strong impact");
4. Effective and engaged principals and building-level leaders (57
percent said it would have a "very strong impact").

These were the factors that teachers said were least important in
improving academic achievement:

1. A longer school day (6 percent);
2. Monetary rewards for teachers based on the performance of the
entire school (8 percent);
3. Monetary rewards for teachers based on their individual
performance (9 percent);
4. A longer school year (10 percent).

Other factors that teachers thought were relatively less important:
common assessments across all states (20 percent thought these would
have a "very strong impact" on academic achievement); and common
standards across all states (29 percent).

Teachers believe that families are crucial for improving student
academic performance, but about half of the teachers surveyed say
that parent participation in their school has declined, and only
about 10 percent said that parent participation had increased.

Sixty-two percent of teachers say that the best measures of student
performance are ongoing, formative assessments, the kinds that are
integrated into daily instruction and give the teacher immediate
feedback. Fifty-five percent of teachers say that class participation
is "absolutely essential" as a measure of student performance.
Performance on class assignments" is viewed as "absolutely essential"
by 47 percent of teachers.

The least valuable measures of student academic achievement,
according to teachers, are: tests from textbooks (4 percent);
district-required tests (6 percent); state-required standardized
tests (7 percent); and final exams (10 percent).

When teachers were asked whether the state standardized tests were
"meaningful benchmarks" to measure students' progress or to compare
schools, only 5 percent agreed strongly.

It is interesting that the least useful measures, in the eyes of
teachers, are the state-required standardized tests that policymakers
use to punish and reward students, teachers, principals, and schools.
Only 7 percent of teachers consider them to be "absolutely essential"
measures of their students' academic performance. Yet, to
policymakers, this same measure is the only one that matters.

Teachers are quite willing to be evaluated, contrary to popular myth
spread by politicians. But they want to be evaluated in a
professional manner, by principal observation and review, by formal
self-evaluation, by peer observation and review, by their department
chair's observation and review, and by assessment of their
content-area knowledge.

When asked about the challenges they face, 62 percent of teachers say
they have more students "with behavioral problems that interfere with
teaching" than in the past; 56 percent say they have more students
living in poverty; 50 percent say they have more English-language
learners; 49 percent say they have more students who arrive at school
hungry; and 36 percent say they have more students who are homeless.
Policymakers tend to dismiss all these social and economic issues as
unimportant. Teachers don't, because they see them every day in real

Our policymakers often say that merit pay will lead to the retention
of the best teachers. Teachers don't agree. They say that the factors
that are "absolutely essential" to keeping them in the classroom are
"supportive leadership" (68 percent); "more family involvement in
students' education" (63 percent); "more help for students who have
behavioral or other problems that interfere with learning" (53
percent); and "time for teachers to collaborate" (50 percent).

By contrast, teachers rank the following factors as least important
in keeping them in the classroom: "pay tied to teachers' performance"
(4 percent); "in-school teaching mentors/coaches for first 3 years of
teaching" (15 percent); "opportunities for additional responsibility
and advancement while staying in the classroom" (15 percent).

What do teachers want? They want to spend less time on discipline and
more time collaborating with their colleagues and preparing lessons.
They want more resources for the students with the greatest needs.
They want more training to reach every student in their care.

Unlike the MetLife survey, the Scholastic-Gates survey found that 51
percent of teachers plan to teach "as long as I am able," even past
retirement age, and another 32 percent expect to teach until they
reach retirement age. So while MetLife concluded that 29 percent were
ready to quit, Scholastic-Gates tallied this group as 16-17 percent.

To the policymakers who seem to think that teaching is an easy job,
and to those who write letters to the editor asserting that teachers
don't work hard enough or long enough, consider this: The
Scholastic-Gates survey says in its conclusion that "On average,
teachers work about 11 hours and 25 minutes a day." (Although on Page
13 of the report, the survey says that "teachers work an average of
10 hours and 40 minutes a day, three hours and 20 minutes beyond the
average required work day in public schools nationwide.") Whether it
is one or the other doesn't really matter. This is a demanding job
that requires enormous dedication and gets inadequate support from
families, from policymakers, from elected officials, and from the

The teacher comments that accompany each page of the report are
illuminating. One teacher says, "In my school, we are feeding the
children, clothing the children, and keeping many of them from 7:30
a.m.-6:00 p.m." Another says, "I am a general education teacher, but
at least 50 percent of my class each year has special needs. At least
25 percent of these students have extreme behavior problems which
interfere with teaching the other students to learn."

The goal of the survey "is to place teachers' voices at the center of
the conversation on education reform by sharing their thoughts and
opinions with the public, the media, and education leaders." Is
anyone listening?


Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2018. All Rights Reserved.